Advent is, above all else, a season of hope – a virtue that is all too rare in our world. To live as a person of hope is to behave in such a manner as to draw suspicion that we are behaving somewhat erratically as far as worldly norms go. This new type of behavior – what some may even call erratic behavior (the behavior that led people to conclude that the Apostles were “under the influence” on Pentecost) – is characterized by 9 attitudes. I call them 9 Advent Attitudes. Today, we look at Advent Attitude #2. (Drawn from my book, Under the Influence of Jesus: The Transforming Experience of Encountering Jesus.)
Advent Attitude #2: Lightness of Being
I’m no papal scholar or historian but I’m willing to bet that Pope Francis is the first Pope to use the word “sourpuss” in an Apostolic Exhortation!
Gotta love this guy.
In Evangelii Gaudium, (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis says that, “One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses”.” (85)
In other words, he’s telling us NOT to be a “Debbie Downer” – one of my favorite characters from recent years of Saturday Night Live.
Christians are called to spread joy. Which brings us to Advent Attitude #2: A Tendency toward a lightness of being; not flippancy, but the ability to brighten up a room
Happiness and joy are not the same thing. Followers of Jesus are not people who put on rose-colored glasses and sing, “Don’t worry. Be happy!” No, we are filled with joy which is no flippant, fleeting, feeling of euphoria (say that fast 3 times!). This joy is a deep-down gladness that is abiding – it is an inner peace and serenity that flows from being secure in God’s love. And nothing makes us more joyful and secure than the knowledge that God is with us – Emmanuel!
As a result, joy is capable of withstanding anything that life tosses its way, even suffering. Joy is at the very heart of the Kingdom of God. If we are inviting someone to consider relocating to the Kingdom of God, we had better show them joy. In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster emphasizes the need for joy in the Christian life because “it is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. They should not be. Of all people, we should be the most free, alive, interesting. Celebration adds a note of festivity and hilarity to our lives.” While joy may not always be expressed in smiles and laughter (although those are major manifestations of joy), it is most definitely characterized by a lack of cynicism and negativity.
Joy leaves no room for despair. In one of his homilies at morning Mass, Pope Francis insisted that “long faces cannot proclaim Jesus. Joy alone and praise of God are the only way to advance the Gospel.” (May 31, 2013). This is precisely why it is no coincidence that there are more feast days than fast days in the Christian calendar – joy trumps sorrow!
So, this Advent, make sure that when you enter a room or join in a conversation, things brighten up just a notch!
Practicing a Lightness of Being
- Who do you know personally that can light up a room? How does he/she do it and how can you imitate that and authentically incorporate it into your personality?
- Take a moment before each opportunity you have to interact with people and ask for the grace to bring joy to that interaction.
- Identify 3 things you can do on a regular, daily basis to maintain and “feed” your spirit of joy, whether it be a daily prayer routine, a walk outside, an exercise routine, time spent with someone who lightens your mood, time before the Blessed Sacrament, or any other way you can think.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phil 4:4)